Peter Murtagh and Sonya McLean
A man who began indecently assaulting and raping his five sisters when he was 10-years-old has been jailed for 11 years.
The 50-year-old man had pleaded not guilty to 27 charges involving rape, indecent assault and sexual assault of his five sisters on dates between 1982 and 2001.
The man was convicted by a Central Criminal Court jury last February on 25 out of 27 charges against him, including eight rape charges, five of indecent assault and 12 of sexual assault.
Four of the five women wanted their brother to be identified in reporting of the case, but as naming him would identify the fifth sister, he cannot be named to protect her anonymity.
The court heard the man's father was convicted of abuse and, as a parent, had been involved in meting out "extreme violence" within his family.
One of the woman stated in her victim impact statement that she had been abused by her father and then by her brother who "tried to take over" from what the father had been doing.
An investigating garda told a previous sentence hearing earlier this month that the assaults started when the women were as young as seven and continued into their teens and early adulthood.
The crimes were committed in the midlands, in a house, caravans, horse sheds, and in the open countryside.
The attacks included one on a sister on either her sixth or seventh birthday, when she and her sibling were taking part in a local festival. The woman recalled in her victim impact statement how she was "all excited" at getting dressed up and participating in the festival.
On the way home with her brother, they stopped at a local shop. The shopkeeper admired her costume and said her brother was "a great man for looking after her". Further along the route on the way home, the same brother sexually assaulted her.
The woman said she had "no understanding" of what was being done to her.
Another sister was assaulted on her birthday and another sister was assaulted on her Confirmation day.
The court heard one of the sister's, who complained to her mother, was then beaten by her. Another was told by her brother that if she said anything, he would drown her.
The case came to light in 2016 when the five sisters made allegations of rape and sexual assault by their brother.
The family were members of the Travelling community and were involved in keeping horses and goats. During the period when the crimes were committed, the family became settled.
Despite the jury conviction, the court was told the man does not accept the verdict and maintains he is the victim of an alleged dispute with another Traveller family, as well as collusion between his sisters, and the fabrication of evidence.
Mr Justice Paul Burns said the offence represented “a breach of normal trust that should be expected between siblings” and noted that the assaults were exasperated by the man threatening his sisters and, on occasion, wiping himself in their clothes following the attacks.
The judge noted the “profound effect” the crimes had on the women.
“They had their childhoods taken away from them,” Mr Justice Burns said before he added that they have suffered from stress, anxiety and depression, with some of the women having considered suicide.
“I sympathise with each of the victims,” the judge said, adding that their victim impact statements outlined how the abuse has affected their relationships with their own families.
Mr Justice Burns said it was a complicated sentence as there were different maximum penalties available to the court, depending on when the offence was committed and, in some cases, a lesser maximum sentence was applied for a more serious assault.
He accepted that the man’s father had also sexually abused the children and, as such, the accused was “lacking moral guidance”.
Mr Justice Burns imposed various different sentences, the longest of which was a 12-year term for rape with the final 12 months suspended on the condition that he engage with the Probation Service for three years.
This rape was committed when the man was 21 and therefore the only rape offence that was carried out while the man was an adult.
The sentences are all to run concurrently.
The judge said the man was to be registered as a sex offender and that because he will be under the supervision of the Probation Service for three years on his release from prison, there is no need for a post release supervision order.
If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, you can call the national 24-hour Rape Crisis Helpline at 1800 77 8888, access text service and webchat options at drcc.ie/services/helpline/, or visit Rape Crisis Help. In the case of an emergency, always dial 999/112.